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Silent Hill HD Collection Review

by Diogo Miguel May 14, 2012

The Silent Hill HD Collection has been delayed many times over the last year. It’s rather strange to call it a collection, when only the second and third Silent Hill are included.

The fans were still pleased with the announcement. Silent Hill 2 is regarded as the holy grail of the Silent Hill series. But is this a good enough reason to play through both the Silent Hill video-games included?

Those new to Silent Hill 2 and 3 will most likely struggle in the beginning. Both video-games hail from a time when players were encouraged to actively solve problems. Silent Hill 2 in particular includes some devious puzzles that will test the limits of a player’s patience. The main issue with these earlier Silent Hill video-games, is the fact that they don’t do a good job of hiding backtracking.

This is made worse by the fact that some essential items aren’t always easily found. An apartment section in Silent Hill 2 will probably confuse players for hours. This is due to a puzzle that requires items, which the player can’t get until getting through a series of events. These events oddly enough start with a grown man, violently vomiting into a toilet. It’s a bizarre logic that isn’t seen in current day video-game development. This makes it difficult for newcomers to easily understand how it all works.

Funnily enough, the puzzles in Silent Hill 3 are a lot more conventional. It helps that it’s focused on action pieces with plenty of gruesome sights. The puzzle solving is still there but it’s designed in a such a manner, that it becomes harder to not find essential items.

However, it still has the same issue as Silent Hill 2, in that both titles will not go easy on new players. The first hour or so will test the will of anyone used to video-games, that constantly give out hints. These earlier Silent Hill instalments rely on vague clues, that are meant to make players think outside of the box. Not everyone would look at a dead man’s arm tattoo and think it holds a clue. Anyone that manages to make it through that first hour is rewarded with a satisfying experience though..

What makes Silent Hill 2 so unique is how often it lets the player’s mind wander. Various gruesome ordeals are only cleverly shown off screen. Sometimes a mere agonising scream will leave the player wondering what is going on. It’s the sort of idea that keeps Silent Hill 2 from turning into a dull experience.

Silent Hill 3 is like the evil twin, that does drugs and alcohol, in order to prove a point to the parents. New players will most likely enjoy Silent Hill 3 more at first because of it. There’s a lot more going on and not a single gory detail is left out. It even warns sensible people to steer clear.

Silent Hill developers do like torturing players with various puzzles. As mentioned before, some of the puzzles include far too much backtracking, if the player doesn’t carefully search each new area. However, it’s a bit of a double edged word situation, in that they also contain some of the best moments in both video-games.

It’s rare to feel the type of satisfaction that comes from solving each puzzle. What’s even more surprising is that there’s various difficulty levels, and each includes tougher versions of each puzzle. It’s not for everyone but stubborn types will get a kick out of solving tougher puzzles.

Some other aspects of these beloved instalments haven’t aged so well. Character movement in particular is tricky at best. This is made worse by a stubborn camera system that has a mind of its own. It’s even worse when running away from monsters in narrow corridors. The cumbersome item management system also makes certain tasks difficult.

The player has to manually use items in puzzles and other moments. This is a reasonable request as it will make the player think, about what items to use. The main issue is that items are all grouped in one row on Silent Hill 2. Silent Hill 3 separates items into three categories and it makes for better item management.

What Silent hill 2 and 3 do best is story telling and the impact it has on the player. Both stories will eventually make the player care on an emotional level. It’s no wonder Silent Hill is still getting new instalments. There’s lots of places to explore and each includes new monstrosities to deal with. Various reading materials engross the player, due to the interesting information contained within, regarding the town of Silent Hill.

Each boss encounter is a representation of dark secrets that the main character is struggling with. Sometimes these inner demons stem from supporting characters that the player encounters. It’s very interesting to get absorbed into everything that Silent Hill has to offer, once the story starts to pick up the pace.

The fantastic soundtrack also helps to flesh out this perverse world, with various ambient music track.

Now for the news that fans will most likely not want to hear. Both conversions suffer from various flaws that make them inferior, when compared to the originals. One of the biggest offenders is the severe frame rate drop that mostly occurs during boss cut-scenes.

The root of the issue lies in how achievements are unlocked. Each Silent Hill will grind to a halt whenever an achievement is unlocked. It’s clear that the development team handling the conversions had a difficult time.

Other concerns include the fact that some textures aren’t properly up-scaled, when displayed in high definition. This results in blurry textures that look terrible compared to other areas that are properly remastered for a true HD experience. Character models in particular look really good on both versions.

Obviously Silent Hill 3 has an advantage when it comes to visuals and is the one that doesn’t look as dated. There’s been some controversy surrounding the fog effect in Silent Hill 2. It’s clear from looking at videos of the original that it hasn’t been handled properly. However, it’s not exactly one of the main concerns with how the port was handled.

It’s very disappointing that Hijinx Studios and Konami didn’t use all that extra time to release proper HD experiences. Any new players who experience these classics will feel discouraged by the lack of care. It’s also a disservice to the loyal fans who patiently awaited the collection.

A patch with various fixes has been promised, but it’s hard to undo the damage already done. Put bluntly both titles have also not aged well in some areas. New players will struggle to come to grips with the almost archaic level design. However, those that manage to get through the introductory sections are rewarded with memorable experiences.

Silent Hill HD Collection is tainted with technical flaws, but the heart and soul of both Silent Hill 2 and 3 are still there, for those that stick with them.

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